Tour "Around The Baltic Sea" report - Report 3; 15/7/06 (Poland, Gdansk) – 25/7/06 (Latvia, Ventspils)
Robert Laing (Szkocki Bob)
For once getting out of a large city such as Gdansk proved easy with the help local guides to a ferry which, due to high winds, had been cancelled. As was the next Ferry. Add to that a bridge blown down and a section of main road closed for repair and the result was chaos with 20km traffic jam which we took great satisfaction in cycling past. Somewhere along the way we cycled on a section of cycleway signed EuroVelo Route 1 from Calais to St Petersburg.
On Sunday 16/7/06 we crossed into Russia (Kaliningrad region). Without complications getting through border controls took only one-and-a-half hours which I am told is good! The road however was boring and dull. On the first night in Kaliningrad some Polish hooligans and the two Brits were yellow carded for making too much noise while drinking the local vodka. Russian hospitality turned into a suspected scam when breakfast hotel suddenly tried increase agreed cost of breakfast from 5 to 6 roubles. Plus claiming that 3 bedcovers had gone missing from the bedrooms used to shower. Situation not helped by one of the Brits breaking a mirror in one of the bedrooms – accidentally of course! Visited yet another amber museum claiming to be the best/biggest in the Baltics.
It seems the standard of driving gets worse the further east we travel. In Denmark the drivers always give way to cyclists. The German drivers mostly respect cyclists although can be occasionally impatient. Polish drivers even more impatient and favourite manoeuvre seems to be to pass cyclists then turn sharply right in front of them. Consequent adrenalin rush means that in the heat of the moment I am unable to remembere newly learned Polski swear words and end up shouting something like “Polish Plonker” which does not properly convey my anger. In Kaliningrad the drivers are even worse and as they probably would not understand Polski I revert to Anglo-Saxon.
Crossing into Lithuania via the Curonian Spit should have been one of the highlights of the tour. The tourist brochures show pictures of blue sea and sky with miles of gleaming sandy beaches. Unfortunately when cycling it is not possible to see any of this as the road consists of long, straight sections with woods either side of the road with only occasional glimpses of the sea to Neda. From Neda to Klaipeda was much better with a purpose built cycle patrh and views of the sea and lagoon.
At Palanga the group attended a ceremony to celebrate the official opening of a excellent new section of Euro Velo 10 between which winds its way through woods between Klaipeda and Palanga. Yannick (older Polish hooligan), provided an impromptu warm-up act using the microphone to entertain us with a Beatles song. This was followed by many speeches with each speech followed in turn with a tune from the band and dancing by the cheerleaders (see photos on website). Horst also gave a short speech in English congratulating the local officials on the new section and praising the whole concept of bringing all 9 countries round the Baltic Sea together by way of a cycle route. And best of all a free meal including fresh fruit and vegetables and beer plus a free Lithuanian T-shirt.
On 20/7/06 more celebrations, this time Sigitas’ 55th birthday party. Is it necessary to say it was accompanied by much beer and vodka with Sigitas in birthday hat made of leaves. Another memorable day.
Friday 21st July saw the group arrive in Leipaja to find the campsite next to a very large commercial Beach Party at which the last act was not scheduled to start until 2.30am. The only way to get to sleep was – you can guess – extra beer and vodka!! On into Latvia and a Peace Pole planting ceremony at Pavalosti.
Wind has still been from the east therefore the weather continues dry and sunny with only rain so far still the first night in Poland. It was a mistake to write that last sentence because on the way to Ventspils it rained such that the campsite was flooded.
But everyone survived OK and as this report is being typed we are on the ferry to the Estonian islands and the sun is shining brightly once again and the sea and sky are blue.